150th Anniversary news articles

USS Monitor Monument Dedication

On December 30, 1862, the USS Monitor, under tow by the USS Rhode Island, prepared to round Cape Hatteras, N.C., when waves hit the turret so hard it trembled. By 7:30 p.m., one of the hawsers snapped. The Monitor began rolling wildly, which forced out some of the oakum under the turret allowing water to pour in through the gaps.

The situation below deck was serious. The water level had risen to one inch in the engine room and the Worthington pumps were put to work. Soon it was realized that the pumps were having no effect. Therefore, at 8:45 p.m., the Rhode Island stopped the tow, but the water level continued to rise in the Monitor. By 10:00 p.m., Captain Bankhead gave the order for the red distress lantern to be hoisted, and at 11:00 p.m. he sent a message to the Rhode Island to send boats immediately as they were sinking!

Around 1:30 a.m. on December 31, 1862, the red signal lantern could no longer be seen as the USS Monitor slipped beneath the waves. Forty-seven men were rescued from the Monitor before she sank. However, sixteen men were lost—either washed overboard while trying to reach the rescue boats or trapped inside the foundering vessel.

The remains of the ship and these crewmen remained unknown for over 100 years, until the shipwreck was confirmed in 1974 by John Newton and a team from Duke University. The ironclad was found lying upside down with the turret separated from the hull. The ship rested in 230 feet of water approximately 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. In order to protect this national treasure, Congress used the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 to create the nation’s first national marine sanctuary. The site was designated on January 30, 1975—the 113th anniversary of the ship’s launching from Greenpoint, N.Y.

In 2002, the turret, one of the ship’s most iconic pieces, was recovered through a collaborative effort between NOAA and the U.S. Navy. During the underwater excavation of the turret to reduce the turret’s weight, a set of human remains was found. Once the turret was on the deck of the Navy barge, a second set of remains was discovered. The remains of these two unknown sailors currently reside with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. NOAA is making every effort to identify these sailors and to have them interred at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013.

On Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, together with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will dedicate a memorial to honor the USS Monitor and the memory of the 16 sailors who died that night the Monitor sank. Placed in the Civil War section of Hampton National Cemetery, located on the Hampton University campus, the monument will be unveiled at 2:00 PM in a ceremony to memorialize the iconic vessel and the heroic efforts of the brave men who served their country.

The event is open to the public. Reception will follow for invited guests.

For more information contact Shannon Ricles at 757-591-7328 or at Shannon.Ricles@noaa.gov

Click here for directions.

Click here for the press release.


Hampton National Cemetery

Hampton cemetery

Hampton National Cemetery is located in Hampton, Va., near Hampton Roads, in the vicinity of where the historic Civil War naval battle between the Confederate Merrimac/Virginia and the Union Monitor iron-clad ships occurred in 1862. The cemetery’s first burials took place in 1862 and the cemetery is among numerous national cemeteries with origins that date to the Civil War.

The great number of sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War resulted in numerous military hospitals being set up near battle sites. A 1,800-bed military hospital was established at Fort Monroe, near Hampton. Although the Fort Monroe hospital was better staffed and organized than many Civil War hospitals, the mortality rate was high. Consequently, burials at Hampton National Cemetery included many soldiers who died at Fort Monroe and other military hospitals in the vicinity. Although burials began at the cemetery in 1862, it was not classified by the U.S. Government as a national cemetery until 1866. The legal transfer of 4.749 acres for the cemetery did not occur until 1868.

hampton cemetery

There are 638 unknowns soldiers buried at Hampton National Cemetery--most of them Civil War soldiers who fell in combat and were originally hastily buried on the battlefield. There are also 272 Confederate soldiers buried in a separate section.

Through acquisition of additional land parcels since 1862, the cemetery has grown in acreage from its original size of 4.749 acres to its present size of 27.071 acres. Hampton National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 26, 1996.

Monuments and Memorials

The Union Soldiers monument is a 65’ tall granite obelisk that was erected through the efforts of Dorothea Dix, the superintendent of women nurses in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. In 1868 Dix transferred ownership of the monument to the United States. The monument inscription reads: “In Memory of Union Soldiers Who Died to Maintain the Laws.”

Two small, rusticated granite blocks inscribed “To Our Confederate Dead” are situated near the burial location of 272 Confederates in the cemetery.

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